Hate Crimes and Virginia Foxx’s Shame

Posted on April 29th, 2009 by Katherine Franke

Today, the House of Representatives voted on a bill that had come before them in 2007 and failed, the Matthew Shepard Act (officially, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 or LLEHCPA).  Last Friday the Act passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 15–12.  Today, the House considered and passed the act, 249 to 175.   The bill would:

  • expand the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability;
  • remove the current prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally-protected activity, like voting or going to school;
  • give federal authorities greater ability to engage in hate crimes investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue;
  • provide $10 million in funding for 2008 and 2009 to help State and local agencies pay for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes;
  • require the FBI to track statistics on hate crimes against transgender people (statistics for the other groups are already tracked).

It takes quite a bit to move me to sadness and tears while wanting to hurt someone.  Today, Representative Virginia Foxx, (R. N.C.),  stood on the floor of Congress before the mother of Matthew Shepard, and offered the following gratuitously hateful comments about the  murder of Mrs. Shepard’s  son:

I also would like to point out that there was a bill — the hate crimes bill that’s called the Matthew Shepard bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay.  This — the bill was named for him, hate crimes bill was named for him, but it’s really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.

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I am breathless just reading this statement.  Can you imagine how Matthew’s mother felt hearing it?   Rep. John Lewis, who knows a little bit (sic) about hate crimes and lynching, responded: “She should be ashamed.  That is unreal, unbelievable. The law enforcement people and almost every reasonable person I know believes he was murdered because he was gay.”

Every not-insane, not-hateful person knows that Matthew Shepard was ruthlessly murdered on account of his being gay.  The men who tortured and killed him said so, witnesses said so.  And the facts said so.  No one who was “merely” a robber would be have been subjected to the treatment Matthew got.  In fact, they men who killed him,  Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, admitted to planning to rob Matthew – not the other way around.   The evidence showed that he was robbed, pistol whipped, tortured, tied to a fence in a remote, rural area, and left to die. McKinney and Henderson also found out his address and intended to rob his home. Still tied to the fence, Shepard was discovered eighteen hours later who a man at first thought that Shepard was a scarecrow. At the time of discovery, Shepard was still alive, but in a coma.

It moves me to weep, to cry out, to want to get on the next plane to North Carolina that we live in a country where someone like Foxx can deny on the floor of the House in front of Matthew Shepard’s mother, the violent, pervasive, enduring reality of the violence against gay, lesbian and trans youth while blaming them for the violence they suffer day after day after day.

May the passage of this bill, and President Obama’s signature foxx-treemaking it law, put Foxx and her supporters to shame.   But her ignorance and hatred toward gay people does not exhaust the full scope of her insensitivities.   Her voting record reveals votes against Katrina Relief, and the Voting Rights Act, while instead she, a former Christmas Tree farmer,  saw her time better spent introducing bills such as a joint resolution praising the Christmas Tree Industry as a national treasure.

The “Values” link on Rep. Foxx’s website describes her ethical commitments:

Protecting and encouraging a strong family is of vital importance to our nation’s progress and prosperity. We should continue to promote and push for policies in Washington that allow families to flourish and that protect life at any and all stages. Our nation was based on Judeo-Christian values and we must never turn our backs on these principles. While the First Amendment to the Constitution explicitly states that Congress shall make no law establishing a state religion, it also prohibits Congress from prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The First Amendment guarantees Americans the freedom to think, speak, and believe as they choose. To force Americans to check their religious beliefs at the door when engaging in any sort of public debate is wrong. I will fight to maintain our rights and to honor and carry on our religious heritage.

It’s one thing to say that you can’t support same-sex marriage because the bible says not to.  It’s another to say that your Judeo-Christian values require you to deny, if not endorse, deadly violence against innocent young people.  Shame.  Shame.  Shame.


  1. Where is the sensitvity of this Republican Representative? She has gone to far. Where is her soul, is there no shame? She needs to be ousted. If I were a resident of Virginia I would run against her. Any takers!!!!!!!

  2. It is really ashame that Virginia Foxx from Virginia would have taken her opportunity in front of Matthew Shepherd’s mother. I was really angered that she could have the nerve to make such arragant comments that undermined what the Shepherd family has endured.

    I don’t know if Foxx is trying to be a culture warrior and implying that gay people are second class citizens, but she will be held accountable to a higher power someday for her comments. If the voters re-elect her, she will have to account the man upstairs, or will end up with the man downstairs.

  3. No need to fight with Mrs. Foxx. Put your energy into helping me send her home.
    Elisabeth Motsinger for Congress

  4. steep777 February 12, 2014 at 12:55 am

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